A New Mind for Policy Analysis: Toward a Post-Newtonian and Postpositivist Epistemology and Methodology

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Morcol argues that the objectivist and deterministic assumptions of mainstream policy analysis, which are based on the Newtonian/positivist worldview or mind-set, should be transcended. After demonstrating that the favored methods of mainstream policy analysis are based on Newtonian ontological and positivist epistemological assumptions and that the connections between these two are intimately and historically related, he critically assesses and highlights the contributions of quantum mechanics, complexity theory, and cognitive science to a new mind-set in scientific knowledge, a post-Newtonian and postpositivist mind-set.

Newtonian/positivist and post-Newtonian/postpositivist worldviews are conceptualized as fuzzy mind-sets, that is they are not mutually exclusive and that they share assumptions at varying degrees. Cognitive science shows that some of the fundamental concepts and assumptions of the Newtonain/positivist philosopy—such as the concept of causality and the tendency to categorize reality (reductionist thinking)—are the products of the evolutionary adaptation of the human mind and they have become its built-in defaults. As Morcol suggests, we cannot change the biological defaults of our minds, but we can change our way of thinking, to an extent, through a cultural evolution. He argues that conscious efforts can be made in policy analysis education to help move our thinking toward a post-Newtonian and postpositivist policy analysis. Of particular interest to scholars and advanced students dealing with policy analysis, public administration, and political science, especially those concerned with epistemology and methodology.

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